In the early hours of July 17, 1918, Bolshevik insurgents killed the former Tsar of Russia, his wife, and their five children in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.
Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the Russian throne on March 15, 1917, at the start of the Russian February Revolution, bringing an end to the 304-year rule of the House of Romanov. The new Russian Provisional Government decided to place the Romanov family under house arrest in Alexander Palace in the St. Petersburg suburbs on March 20, 1917.
Tobolsk, in Western Siberia, became the final resting place for Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their children Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, in August 1917. They were transferred to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, under the close watch of Bolshevik guards, in April of 1918.
In June 1918, the Czechoslovak Legion, supporting the counterrevolutionary White Army, was entering Yekaterinburg. By this time, the Russian Civil War was well underway. The decision to kill the Romanovs was made in late June because of concern that these forces were en route to rescue the royal family.
The execution of the ex-Tsar family by firing squad was ordered on July 16 and carried out by Bolshevik guards commanded by Yakov Yurovsky.
On the morning of July 17, 1918, at about 2 a.m., the family was roused and clothed under the belief that they were being relocated to a safer place. The family followed Yurovsky and his guards down the stairs to the Ipatiev House’s semi-basement chamber.
A few minutes later, an execution squad was brought in, and Yurovsky read out his order of execution, at which point a horrified Nicholas exclaimed: “What? And what exactly did you say? You idiot, you have no idea what you’re doing!”
It has been said that Yurovsky pulled out a Colt revolver and fatally shot Nicholas at least three times in the chest and midsection. Even though another executioner subsequently stated that guard Pavel Medvedev had fired the fatal shot that killed the ex-Tsar, Yurovsky took the credit.
When the empress and her children started shouting and praying, all hell broke loose in the basement. The executioners opened fire madly into the night, but the family managed to escape the initial round of shots thanks to the diamonds sewn into their garments.
By that time, the smoke and dust had settled to the point that it was difficult to see anything in the room. Once this was evident, the executioners stabbed the family with bayonetted weapons and shot them at close range in the head to muffle the noise.
Empress Alexandra was shot in the head by Yurovsky first, and then her son Alexei. Son Alexei was shot twice in the head by Yurovsky after having his magazine emptied on him by an executioner.
Reportedly, before their deaths, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia hid their heads against a wall. The assault also claimed the lives of the staff.
Approximately 70 shots were fired during the 20-minute execution, according to post-mortem examinations.
After being stripped of valuables, the remains were carried into a Fiat truck and driven to a swampy area deep within the Koptyaki forest. Because it was determined that the original grave was too shallow, the remains were relocated to a new location 15 kilometers north of Yekaterinburg, where they were dissolved in sulfuric acid before being reburied.
Alexei and one of his sisters thought to be Maria, were spared from the mass burial, and their remains were burnt in a bonfire before being thrown into a smaller hole to throw off any potential grave robbers. The execution of Tsar Nicholas and their family was carried out brutally.
For a long time, nobody knew where after the execution of Tsar Nicholas family were laid to rest; it wasn’t until 1979 that a mass grave was discovered, and it wasn’t until 1991 that the bodies were officially identified as the Tsar family. Alexei and Maria’s bodies were found in a shallow hole in 2007.